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Will Apple Lose Top Employees? The Great Brain Drain (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG)

The problem faced by these departures is that, with Steve Jobs out of the picture, the desire to perform and to succeed may be different for many other executives or key employees. The desire for new and outside challenges might really take hold. You know that tech outfits would love to recruit out talent from Apple right now. How many designers and concept guys that worked on the iPod, iPhone and iPad might be thinking that they can go do something new or can go earn more at a technology firm that has been challenged of late?

The more obvious risk is that other management team members (rather than just employees) might also start to wander away in search of new challenges. Many of these team leaders have become millionaires by working for years at Apple. With Apple’s high brand image, venturing out to try something new is not out of the ordinary.

When the cats are away, the mice come out and play … Quitting a job as an employee can be a difficult thing. It can be a bit like breaking up with a lover that never did anything wrong, but one which you do not want to spend more time with. However, if you see several relationships end it can be an emboldening tool for someone who might have been chicken to press for the break-up. The truth is that it is just easier to turn in your resignation if you do not know your manager, or even if a number of employees around you have already pulled their exit moves. “If they can do it, so can I.”

These brain drains are almost never immediate at such a large company. They often take months and years to fully play out. Still, these same brain drains can change an entire corporate culture. Many employees use companies as stepping-stones right out of school, or many choose a company because of its culture. The reasons that employees and executives depart are too many to count. What ultimately matters is that the departure risk runs much higher.

This is not really a new thought, even if the brain drain is not currently present at Apple. Two top executives leaving will not kill a company. But what if three more jump ship, and then three under those departed, and then three underlings on each of their teams and so on …

Will this be the beginning of the end for Apple? Not likely. The question is simple: Will Apple be the same company in five years? Even if a brain drain were to crop up as quickly as the immediate months ahead, it is important to remember one thing: The product and development pipeline has been underway for years and the company is now working on sales drivers that literally might not be on the market until 2013, 2014, or even beyond. Changing which employees work on those is one thing. Those products will hopefully be as successful or more successful than the rest.

Canaccord Genuity is not too concerned about the future of Apple’s stock. They just reiterated a “Buy” rating and raised the price target objective to $545.00. Can Apple hit $545.00? Sure, some analysts even expect a higher share price than that. Just do not forget about this potential brain drain as a risk. That new conceptualized giant UFO-styled Apple super-campus could be the home of many more future Apple employees rather than existing employees.

JON C. OGG

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